Most of us entered the new year with tentative optimism, hoping things will be better than 2020. But we’re still in a pandemic, racial equity still eludes us, and the political climate has gone haywire. Add to that the rapid changes we’re facing with legislation, technology and succession and it can all be overwhelming.

To feel more in control and less overwhelmed, I try to focus on things that I can truly manage and affect. Author Steve Gilliand suggests that to make an impact and enjoy the ride along the way, we must consciously, “Focus [our] efforts on what [we] can change and accept what [we] cannot.”

So, in 2021, I’m looking to make change in places that I can impact – within my family, work, community and especially within myself. There are things that I’d like to start doing, or do more of like new content creation, writing, training to run a marathon or ultramarathon this fall, helping my parents organize and reduce their belongings, visiting several new National Parks and expanding my gardens this summer. But my life is so jam-packed that I can’t fit these things that call to me in without giving up or changing something.

And that’s why my theme for 2021 is LESS IS MORE.

So far, here’s my list of possible reduction strategies to apply my less is more motto:

  • Schedule fewer appointments per day. This can feel impossible, because my team and I are expert at packing my days from 8 to 6 p.m. M-F with client, prospect, and internal team member meetings. We are so good at it that Microsoft’s Cortana keeps reminding me of how little time I have available during the day to get work done, and I spend most evenings knocking out my focus work because I’m simply over-scheduled. This makes it harder to spend quality time with my husband, family and friends during my off time and it has really blurred the borders between work and home. To schedule fewer daily appointments, I’m going to have to…
  • Say more NOs. None of us wants to say no, and I am no different. I want to be of service. And I love my work! BUT, to find more room in my life, I need to say more of these phrases:
    • No, I cannot do this, but PERSON’S NAME ON MY TEAM can if you’d like.
    • Yes, we can help, but it won’t be me, it will be PERSON’S NAME instead – are you okay with that?
    • No, I/we can’t do this right NOW, but I/we can do this in LATER TIMING
    • Yes, I /we can do this, but NOT NOW. Instead, it’ll have to be LATER TIMING – will that work for you?
    • No, I/we cannot do this but our friends at REFERRAL SOURCE could definitely help.
    • Yes, I /we can help you by referring you to our friends at REFERRAL SOURCE – how does that sound?
    • No, team, we can’t take on this brilliant idea right now. Let’s park it and revisit it in six months.

As I’ve been thinking about my three words for 2021, my partner Tamera jokingly suggested that one should be “merciless” – as in mercilessly saying no and reducing commitments. That word can feel a little harsh, so I have considered relentless, purposeful, or determined. It’s funny, because I can be those things when it comes to exercise and health, commitment to deliver, and protecting my family. Why can’t I also be those things when it comes to protecting my schedule (which is protecting myself) or maintaining a reasonable capacity plan?

  • Streamline my clients. This is one of the hardest things to consider because I LOVE my clients! And I want to serve them all, PLUS new clients that I don’t even know yet! However, I can only serve so many a year and when I’m full, its time to “clean out the closet” of my clients, and identify those that could be served by another member of our team, those that may not be using me/our firm the way we intend, or those where the work may not be our ideal. I’ll use our client transition methodology to make this work, or we’ll refer the client to another provider if that makes better sense. In truth, we have clients who need more from us -- and from me in particular -- and I simply cannot meet their need without revising my load.
  • Leverage more. I need to identify new ways to further leverage my team and accomplish our client and internal work. I’ll include a member of my team in my client and prospect meetings more consistently so they can execute follow up, write recaps and be a 2nd person (and potential successor) when I’m not available. In service areas where I’m not unique and others can deliver the service easily, I need to pull back and allow my team to go forward without me, no matter how much I love those services.
  • While we have intentionally controlled growth, we’ll need to add a new face or two to the Convergence roster in 2021. You might be saying, how is this less? It sounds like more! And it is more to manage, but I won’t be the person managing them necessarily. In order for me to leverage more, my partners and team members will need additional resources to leverage from as well.

When implementing a less is more strategy, automation and outsourcing can help. At ConvergenceCoaching®, we have long outsourced certain key functions, so I don’t see that as a real answer to my reduction plan. But I may be able to outsource more at home than I have been. And we use a lot of wonderful technologies today – one of my favorite tools this past year has been Microsoft Teams which we use for all sorts of collaboration. It is quickly becoming a single source of truth for us for file sharing and that sure saves time. When we conduct strategic planning in February, we’ll only explore what’s next with Teams and any other IT innovations that, when added, may replace, or reduce current processes.

As you read this, you might be asking yourself, why is Jen sharing this with me? I’m sharing it because I want to be real about where I am. And because you may be there, too. There are all sorts of shimmering new ideas we want to pursue, but we’re flattened out in terms of capacity. Maybe you should evaluate my five ideas for clearing space to see if you might benefit from mercilessly implementing them in your life, too? You might also have some ideas for me or my team. After all, we’re in the service business together and your experiences are always beneficial to us.

In the meantime, I’m going to work on my reduction strategy, seeking to lessen and lighten my plate so I can choose new things to place on it. I’ll keep you posted on my journey along the way!